No Way Back – Chapter 6 – Updated 23JAN2010


Oh, and, this may be split into two chapters because it’s quite long.

Wow, the next day and I’ve already made changes.  Well, that’s to be expected when you don’t take the time to actually read it before you post it.  Nothing major, but I like the newer wording much better.

Chapter 6

I logged into my system, not wanting to seem like anything was out of the ordinary. I knew that wasn’t going to be possible, I’d been gone for days from it. I punched in my password and hit Enter. In moments, I was logged into my dropship’s control room, looking at the various Bot models I’d accumulated, stats, repair conditions, ammunition stockpiles, job requests, friend invites and rival matches. Everything that I would need to get myself into the game in one of the several ways possible waited for me there. It included the incoming message light, which, at the moment was flashing at me, letting me know someone had directly commed me. I had three messages, in fact, as the display scrolled that fact along my command console. I clicked the button and the console flipped up, and showed the messages. The first one was a message about the game’s two years anniversary, and commemorative maps for their users. The second was from one of my “friends,” who only had me on his list because he felt he was cheated out of a game when I blew out his Bot’s energy control module, a favored tactic of veteran Bot pilots, and something that I only used to show newer pilots their vulnerability if they weren’t careful. He wanted to challenge me yet again. I laughed as I read it, and pushed it aside, thinking I’d have to deal with him another time.

The third message is what caught my attention. It was from my friend from school, Preston. We were friends long before we were on the same assault team in the game. He wrote, told me how Dannielle had called him, and told him that she was leaving me for good, and that it was “way uncool” how I was treating her. The accusation made me that much more angry, but I realized that his feelings on the matter were based on what she knew of what was happening, that I had “been with” someone else. He continued that I seemed more and more elusive, and that he was starting to worry that I was spending too much time in the game. The message ended, “Maybe you and I should get off this game and hit the laser tag arena like we used to.”

Laser tag. Sounds like a plan to me! I mean, hell, I don’t really want to be here, by myself, in front of this computer today. And, yes, he’s right, my life had become nothing but a running stat chart on ChromeBots. Not to mention, if I kept going the way I was, I was going to loose what little form I had. I mean, I wasn’t really gaining weight, yet, but at the rate I was going to, I was going to find myself “morbidly obese,” as the media and paranoid doctors put it. I laugh at that thought. Yeah, me, still too scrawny to make average weight, as fat…

I quickly close out the game, ignoring the the invites that begin popping in my screen. Today, I’m the third best of four gunners in my laser tag team. The Bot-runners will just have to wait for “PandorasBane” to be ready for them another time. Besides, it’s been almost a week since I’ve seen anyone outside of school, and, yeah, I have been avoiding everyone. I don’t want people to know how torn up I am about Dannielle, Gabriella, Audrey… The time spent with each of the girls that I’d tried dating and failed miserably flashed through my heart and mind for just a moment. Each of them, so friendly, so nice to me. They even tried to deal with my gaming habit, which just seemed to get worse. And now, to factor in this new person, Chibi, or whoever they are. It slowly brought more questions to mind. How many calls hadn’t I received? I push it all aside for the time being and bound up the steps, quickly heading to my room to get changed.

My closet is flung open, and I dive into the “organized chaos” my mother calls a pigsty of a closet. “I know just where everything in here is!” I’d told her a dozen times. Today, though, I prove myself wrong as I go searching for my team’s shirt. It had been a while since I’d needed it. “Wow,” I say out loud, “It’s been three months! I hope I’m still part of that team.” I grab the pile of clothes and toss them out of the closet, hoping that doing so will show my shirt. Of course, all that really does is make a mess of my room, since the majority of my shirts are dark blues, browns, and blacks, a fact that doesn’t dawn on me until after I’ve tossed them. I growl softly at myself as I start rummaging through the now spread pile. I finally find it, a black and silver striped shirt with a screen-print of a pair of assault rifles crossing and a black light-reactive bull’s-eye between their butts. Our team, the “Young Gunners,” could have had a tournament run a year ago, if it weren’t for the fact that I was too preoccupied with trying, quite literally, to win Allessa’s favor to send in the paperwork. I quickly check it out, making sure there are no tears, and sniff it. Seems good, I think as I toss it on the bed. I quickly yank off the basic blue t-shirt I’m wearing, tossing it into the hamper, then pull on the team shirt.

“Alright, that’s down,” I say to the closet. I quickly round up the thrown clothing and toss it on my bed. Who knows, maybe mom’s right, I should put it away correctly. But I’ll do it when I get home. My pants should be much easier, they’ll be in the drawer where I put them. Sure enough, they are there, at the very bottom of the drawer.. I jump out of my shorts and pull on the jeans, then grab the sneakers that are half-hidden under my bed, and quickly pull them on. I keep a pair of extra-baggy jeans for one reason and one reason only: EVERY other pair of pants I’d worn that weren’t baggy either grabbed, pulled, or tore as I played, making me very uncomfortable. Even though I didn’t like wearing the “tents” that I enjoyed teasing some people about, they were definitely less likely to tear when moving around.

“Now, to call Preston.” I quietly head back down the hall, expecting my parents to still be sleeping. After all, it is only nine-thirty in the morning. I hadn’t been up this early, outside of heading to school, in weeks! I make it down the steps, stealth my objective, and head around the banister and into the living room. I grab up the house phone and dial him up.

“Mmm.. ‘Ello?”

“Preston! It’s me, wake up!”

“Robert?” The sleep in his voice unmistakable.

“Yeah, dude, come on, get up!”

“What are you, crazy? It’s… Dude, it’s not even ten yet, wake me up when it’s, like, afternoon!”

I decide to give my intent quickly. “Snipes, we gotta get moving! Come on, I’m already dressed and ready to go!” I even sound excited in my own ears. Am I really this excited about getting out of the house?

“They don’t even open for another hour and a half, man, are you serious?” I hear the sound of his sheets rustling as he sits up. “Besides, why now? You haven’t wanted to go now in, like, forever!”

I recoil at the implication. He’s right, I know it. That doesn’t mean I don’t wanna go. “Look, man, if you don’t wanna go, I’ll understand, but I’m going whether you like it or not.”

“Alright, alright, just gimme a few minutes to get dressed. In fact, you come pick me up.”

“Not a problem. Hey, I’m gonna call the other guys to–”

“Don’t bother. They won’t come. It’s too early. Hell, it’s too early for me.” He laughs quietly, and I hear him stretching. “Only reason I’m agreeing is because I can’t wait to kick your skinny ass, bee-otch.”

“You and what army?” I joke, knowing, statistically, he wasn’t bluffing.”

“Ha, ha. Anyway, mind if I invite someone else to come along?” The request surprises me. Usually he just informs me.

“Sure. Will I be picking him up, too?”

“No, man. They’ll just meet us up there. Give me a minute to text’em.”

“No problem.” I smile, expecting to finally not be on the lower-half of the team. “Uh, Preston? You said text, right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“What company do you use for your cell phone?”

“finally gonna break down and buy your own ‘tracking device,’ huh?” His voice drips in sarcasm, as I pick up the less-than-subtle jab at my insistence that cell phones allow us to be tracked.

“Well, it’s more like I think someone’s already broken into my life…”

I hear a sound that I associate with a shirt rubbing against his phone. “Oh, you mean the ‘Chibi’ thing? Might just have been a fluke. Or, maybe she was calling a wrong number.”

“Doesn’t matter. Whoever this Chibi person is, she screwed up my life. Well, worse than I’d done to myself.” I feel myself getting angry again, and shut it down. Save it for the arena, I tell myself.

“Ah. Well, I use Mobi-Tech. You can get it just about anywhere, and it’s only about twenty bucks for 800 minutes, and you get free mobile-to-mobile for the ten numbers you call the most.” He almost sounds like the infomercial by the time he’s finished his quote.

I think for a moment. Twenty bucks, and I know that they are willing to change the number for me if someone can prove they’re being stalked. “Alright, we’ll stop in and get one for me today.”

“Sounds good, bro. Now, hurry up and pick me up, my trigger finger’s itchin’.”

“Alright, see ya in a few.”

I hang up the phone and set it on the charger. Time to roll. I reach into my pocket and grab my keys, running my finger against the gemmed key-fob that Dannielle had given me for our one-month anniversary. I still hadn’t removed it, part of me thinking if I don’t remove it, she’ll come back when someone says it’s still there. She must really hate me. She won’t even look at me, let alone talk to me and give me a chance to tell her how I really feel about her.

I start heading for the door, reach out, and grab the brass nob. I turn it, pulling the door open to face the bright sunshine and slight morning chill. It was a bit warmer today than it had been the past few days, and I wouldn’t need a jacket. Besides, the cold helped. Made me feel like I wasn’t the only empty thing on the planet. As I start to step outside, I start thinking about my option about the cell phone. I have some cash from when I was working. I never felt a need to buy anything outside of sodas, and those can be rather cheap. I don’t want an over-expensive phone. Just something that I can use and no one can listen in. Preston has one of those ultra-thin phones, and it always has reception. That works.

My hand catches the handle of the door to my 1993 Chevy Cavalier Z24. Its faded black paint would look great if I took the time to work on it. It was in good repair, and the previous owner religiously took care of it. My dad bought it cheap so I could go to work, not that I was now. He keeps telling me that, if I get another job, he’ll go halves on a newer car with me, but, I like my car. Maybe I should hurry and get a new job, and convince him to go halves on a paint job. I sit in the car, pulling the door shut, and crank my V-6 into life. I smile as I bring the clutch in and back quickly out of the driveway. The exhaust grunts as I bring the car around and head down the street to pick up Preston.

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2 Comments on “No Way Back – Chapter 6 – Updated 23JAN2010”

  1. Virginia Says:

    Goodness! this is getting to be GREAAAT! keep it up Lone. I love it.

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